Lyrical and naturalistic, The Falling – directed by Carol Morley (Dreams Of A Life) – channels a myriad of other films (Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Wicker Man, If…) to great effect. Rainwashed shots of lakes and trees, shrouded in mist, soundtracked by some effective folk-y music by Tracey Thorn, plus the febrile, fevered atmosphere of an all-girl school invaded by a fainting epidemic, combine to chill and charm in equal measure.
The rather good Maisie Williams is Lydia, a clever, waspish student with an agoraphobic mum, who’s best friends with the rather more laidback Abbie, a pretty, dreamy girl who’s having her first sexual experiences. The pastoral landscapes surrounding them – all weeping willows and autumnal leaves dropping into mirrored lakes – is the backdrop to Abbie’s, and then the rest of the school’s, hysterical fainting episodes. Girls collapse in classes, in the loos, at lunchtime – and in one rather balletic sequence, during an assembly on ‘hazards in the home’.
Is the fainting demonic possession? Has Lydia’s brother Kenneth (seen wafting around muttering about ‘magick’ and collecting hairs from Abbie’s head) got something to do with it? The mystery deepens as teachers get involved and Lydia’s mother seemingly checks out of life as her daughter gets sucked into the underworld of nature and reality.
I enjoyed the obvious nods to Donald Cammell and Peter Weir, as well as Nic Roeg, in The Falling. It was all rather beautiful in a dreamy, menacing, rain-spattered way, and Morley handles her young cast well. The scenes of the girls clustered around their chocolate sponge pudding at lunchtime sharply countered the insanity and secrets at the heart of Lydia’s homelife; no one really knows what goes on in our heads when the mask is dropped and we are in our bedrooms, alone and staring at a book, while pretending to read.
Dreams Of A Life was filled with unbearable longing, loneliness and grief; The Falling takes these themes and turns them into a lyrical film exposing the confusion and mystery at the heart of growing up. Gorgeous.